A bird of prey getting hassled by two crows over the fields of Kilbride, Trim as captured by Patricia Tyndall.

Council to engage citizens and communities to make Meath ‘climate resilient’

Meath Co Council is aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions across seven sectors of the county’s economy as part of its draft climate action plan for the next five years.

It wants to improve energy efficiency by making Meath a ‘climate resilient’ region, reducing the impact of future climate change related events. And it wants to do it by actively engaging citizens, communities and business on climate action.

An inventory carried out in 2018 charted the emissions across nine sectors – Industrial Processes, 29 per cent; Agriculture, 25 per cent; Manufacturing and Commercial, 13 per cent; Transport, 10 per cent; Waste, 9 per cent; Residential, eight per cent and Land used, land use change and forestry, six per cent. Meath Co Council itself was at one per cent. Its own emissions comprised electricity 62 per cent, Heat 22 per cent, Transport 16 per cent and it says it strives to be the exemplar in reducing the emissions it has direct control over and achieve a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 51 per cent.

The council is creating decarbonising zones at Navan, Trim, Kells, Duleek, Laytown Bettystown, Ashbourne, Ratoath, Dunboyne and Dunshaughlin. The towns were chosen because of their locations and varying emission profiles. These areas will be used as test beds for climate action at a local community level taking a “no one size fits all” approach.

The climate action plan 2024-2029 will have a mitigation strategy with an in-house council focus, external/community focus, along with the decarbonisation zones.

Mary D’Arcy, Climate Change Co-Ordinator Meath Co Council made a presentation on the plan to councillors at their monthly meeting.

The presenting of the council’s climate action plan sparked comments from councillors and Fine Gael Cllr Sharon Tolan led off by asking if, in relation to the council’s own electric vehicle fleet, whether it would have to increase capacity for charging them on site at Buvinda and at its outlying depots.

She asked if electric vehicles were “sitting in depots unused” because the council did not have the capacity to charge them. It needed the ESB to “get their heads in order” to provide that capacity.

Independent Cllr David Gilroy said he knew of no one in the council chamber who campaigned in the 2019 local elections on an environmental ticket. But over the last four or 5 years it had become increasingly important and everyone had a role to play within the discussion. The councillors could play an important role in connecting with communities and informing them about climate change.

The cutting of greenhouse gas emissions and implementing change were important and councillors could play a role in the discussions that was taking place: “We need to figure out solutions because the people we will be looking votes off and the people who work within our communities are going to want some answers. There is no shortage of information no shortage of workshops, there is no shortage of opportunities for communities to come out and meet – they just don’t seem to be motivated to do it. We can play a role within that to motivate them."

Independent Cllr Gillian Toole, praising the climate action team in the county council, said there was no shortage of workshops that the council had organised. She urged that the message about climate change and the need for action be highlighted in the media. She asked if the €811,000 allocated to the county for climate action could be put into public transport.

Labour Cllr Elaine McGinty recalled the flooding of the last few weeks and praised the council’s efforts in combating it. “That hasn’t gone unnoticed,” she said. Flooding was one thing but there was also coastal erosion to be concerned about. It was alarming to hear that the Government might have a plan to have to abandon parts of the country because of climate threats. “Flooding is a big issue out there but getting cars off the road is another one.” She had been trying to get improvements around Drogheda in terms of more provision of public transport “but I’m getting nowhere”.

Fine Gael Cllr Gerry O’Connor felt the councillors could play a role in communicating the message about climate change to people. Aontú Cllr Emer Tóibín asked if a calculation could be done on the reduction of emissions in the transport sector if the rail line project could be brought forward.

Fine Gael Cllr Alan Tobin said that all the councillors seemed to be bringing different stories from each municipal district and he wondered if videos could be made to highlight the problems that were arising. There were so many “bits and pieces” going on with climate change and people were “becoming bamboozled”.

“With all that information coming at you, you do feel powerless about the whole thing.

“One of the major things we can do is get information out to people so that they know they are empowered,” he said.

Social Democrat Cllr Ronan Moore also praised the council climate action team: “It’s up to us as councillors to re-echo what you have put out there and try to get people to make submissions.”